prof·​li·​gate | \ ˈprä-fli-gət How to pronounce profligate (audio) , -ˌgāt \

Definition of profligate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : wildly extravagant profligate spending
2 : completely given up to dissipation and licentiousness : shamelessly immoral leading a profligate life


prof·​li·​gate | \ ˈprä-fli-gət How to pronounce profligate (audio) , -ˌgāt \

Definition of profligate (Entry 2 of 2)

: a person given to wildly extravagant and usually grossly self-indulgent expenditure

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Other Words from profligate


profligately adverb

Don't Get Overwhelmed by the History of Profligate


When a royal record keeper reported the "profligation of the knights" almost five centuries ago, he didn't mean the knights were wildly indulging in excesses; he meant they were thoroughly defeated in battle. There's nothing etymologically extreme there; the Latin verb profligare, which is the root of both profligate and the much rarer profligation (meaning "ruin"), means "to strike down," "to destroy," or "to overwhelm." When the adjective profligate first appeared in print in English it meant "overthrown" or "overwhelmed," (a sense that is now obsolete) but over time the word's meaning shifted to "immoral" or "wildly extravagant."

Examples of profligate in a Sentence

Adjective In a curious way, part of the genius of America has been a collective forgetfulness, a talent for somehow outdistancing problems in a headlong race toward something new. It is a form of heedlessness, perhaps, blithe and profligate, but also an exuberant forward spin that may spare people the exhausting obligations of revenge. — Lance Morrow, Time, 4 Apr. 1988 Sure, the trade deficit symbolizes a profligate America, consuming more than it produces and spending more than it has. — Philip Revzin, Wall Street Journal, 17 Mar. 17, 1988 Everyone seemed fond of statistics, but the counterterrorism experts were especially profligate with numbers. — Kurt Andersen, Time, 24 June 1985 She was very profligate in her spending. profligate movie producers hoping to create the next blockbuster Noun "Why did you ask that scoundrel, Rawdon Crawley, to dine?" said the Rector to his lady, as they were walking home through the park. "I don't want the fellow. He looks down upon us country people as so many blackamoors.  … Besides, he's such an infernal character—he's a gambler—he's a drunkard—he's a profligate in every way." — William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair, 1848 a profligate who could not really afford the grand style he maintained at Monticello, Jefferson died deeply in debt a drunken profligate, he was given to wretched excess in every aspect of his life
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Congress, likewise, should understand that bailing out profligate state and local governments will only ensure more of this bad behavior in the future. Jonathan Williams And Dave Trabert, WSJ, "The Alternative to a Bailout for Fiscally Mismanaged States," 16 Oct. 2020 Republicans were right to hold the line, not only because of the moral hazard of rewarding profligate governments, but also because states and cities are poor channels for swift economic aid. The Editors, National Review, "A Necessary Relief Bill," 22 Dec. 2020 Peerless on the soccer pitch, Mr. Maradona was profligate and profane off it. Liz Clarke, Washington Post, "Diego Maradona, inscrutable soccer star and Argentine legend, dies at 60," 25 Nov. 2020 Was the pandemic a kind of cosmic reckoning for years of profligate and uncharitable behavior? Nick Heil, Outside Online, "I Missed Bars. So I Built One in My Own Backyard.," 15 Oct. 2020 Coming into the year, for example, Citi didn’t appear to be overly profligate. Telis Demos, WSJ, "Citigroup Needs to Spend Money to Make Money," 13 Oct. 2020 The real disagreement comes down to state and local funding, with Democrats taking advantage of the pandemic to attempt a bailout of profligate blue states. The Editors, National Review, "The Country Needs Another Relief Package," 13 Oct. 2020 Congressional Republicans hoped Meadows, an archconservative former North Carolina congressman, would check Mnuchin’s more profligate tendencies. Jason Zengerle, New York Times, "Steven Mnuchin’s Deal Staved Off Catastrophe. Can He Make Another One?," 29 Sep. 2020 The Schuyler mansion was a house of horrors for slaves, yet his profligate daughters, and Hamilton, went along with it. Ishmael Reed, Harper's Magazine, "Not Throwing Away My Yacht," 15 Sep. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Despite claims by President Trump and members of Congress that many Americans need the extra money to stay afloat in the coming months, McConnell denounced the calls for $2,000 as profligate and unnecessary. Jeff John Roberts, Fortune, "$2000 checks are ‘socialism for rich people’ says McConnell, killing hope of extra stimulus," 31 Dec. 2020 From the Financial Times a couple of days ago: Rather than punish the profligate and push borrowing costs higher, the scale of demand from investors for sources of income has easily absorbed the corporate debt deluge. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "The Capital Note: Blue Waving (or Drowning?)," 27 Oct. 2020 The losers among us are basement-dwellers; the cool ones are profligates who refuse to contemplate the future. Molly Roberts, The Denver Post, "Molly Roberts: OK, boomer. The kids are fighting back.," 7 Nov. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'profligate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of profligate


1617, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1709, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for profligate

Adjective and Noun

Latin profligatus, from past participle of profligare to strike down, from pro- forward, down + -fligare (akin to fligere to strike); akin to Greek phlibein to squeeze

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Time Traveler for profligate

Time Traveler

The first known use of profligate was in 1617

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Last Updated

12 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Profligate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for profligate


How to pronounce profligate (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of profligate

formal : carelessly and foolishly wasting money, materials, etc. : very wasteful

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